500.A15A4 Plenary Sessions/108: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the American Delegation (Gibson) to the Acting Secretary of State

119. At this afternoon’s meeting the Spanish, Polish, Japanese and Danish delegates continued the discussion: Madariaga, Spain, in a speech which again developed his plan for the organization of peace and supported by the French thesis criticized the Soviet proposal for automatic reduction of armaments as impractical since absolute figures are only of relative value. Such a method of reduction cannot be as effective as one which takes into consideration the special circumstances of each national. The best solution was one which considers it to be progressive disarmament effected through the continuous work of a commission.

The Spanish representative reminded the Commission that his delegation had submitted a plan similar to the American and Italian proposals and explained that he thought there was no real opposition between the views put forth by France and Italy, that is between abolition of aggressive weapons and the constitution of an international armed force as proposed by France. The latter is predicated on the former. He looked forward to a division of armaments into [Page 91] four categories, (1) arms which were entirely abolished, (2) arms which are solely to be used in behalf of the League, (3) arms which remain national but are subject to the use of the League and, (4) arms which are reserved exclusively for national purposes. In the latter category he considered quantitative reduction possible.

He considered it difficult to determine the distinction between offensive and defensive weapons and the only method of preventing their use lies in the creation of an international organization.

Zaleski, Poland, whose speech was primarily directed against the danger with which Poland is faced in the East referred at some length to the Soviet proposal for automatic reduction which he considered entirely inadequate. He favored the Italian proposal and all other proposals which would tend to limit the use of certain arms but before accepting such propositions wished to be reassured as to whether their authors would accept a system of control which would guarantee his country against surprises. Would these protagonists he asked admit the international control of all industries capable of being utilized for military ends? Without such essential conditions he considered that too great an advantage would be given to those countries lacking in good faith. The committee should in his opinion consider all propositions relating to article 1 of the draft convention and take into special consideration the legitimate preoccupation of each and every country.

Sato, Japan, while expressing sympathy with our proposal considered nevertheless that it would be more advantageous to consider qualitative disarmament from the point of view not only of land but also of air and naval armaments. In connection with the difficulty outlined by Tardieu with regard to distinguishing between the categories of armaments of a defensive or offensive character he stated that divergence of opinion might exist with regard to naval armaments which might be offensive or defensive in character according to the various geographical conditions in which they were to be used especially for countries having distinct naval bases. He also mentioned as particularly offensive weapons airplanes on aircraft carriers. Referring to our thesis that security can be realized by the superiority of defensive weapons over offensive ones and by the abolishing of aggressive weapons he stated that what menaced a country’s security was the very existence of a great superiority of effectives or of a disquieting situation in a neighboring country, in other words that the existence of a formidable offensive force was more dangerous than the existence of so-called aggressive weapons. He therefore considered that if the superiority of defense were effectively to be established the first thing to do would be to adjust [Page 92] the relative strengths of effectives in various countries. In affirming the desire of his delegation for maintaining the present wording of article 1 of the draft convention he reminded the committee that his country could not ignore existing realities which obliged it to proceed with caution and not to embark on the consideration of abstract international political conditions.

Munch, Denmark, whose speech was of considerable interest and a copy of which is being mailed referred at length to a memorandum submitted to the Conference by his delegation but not as yet circulated. He submitted the following draft resolution to the General Commission.

“The General Commission invites the special commissions to elaborate, each within its province, plans for the prohibition of those weapons especially designed to give a pronounced superiority to aggression; to determine the various categories of these arms, it being understood that this prohibition should extend to all manufacture, to all preparation and to all use of such arms.”

He expressed himself as generally favorable to our proposals and outlined the difficulties which were to be encountered in the French proposal for an international force.